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Nebrasketball vs Maryland: O the Heart, O the Sorrow

Winless in true road games this season, Nebraska’s chances of achieving one are getting shorter by the day...

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A Maryland team ranked 9th in the country coming into tonight, hosting a Nebraska team on an eight game losing streak, winless on the road, short-handed, and 2-10 in Big Ten play. But, Nebraska beat Maryland last year as an underdog in the Big Ten Tournament short-handed, maybe they could pull off the upset tonight?

With news of Dachon Burke not traveling because of the flu, and Haanif Cheatham questionable with a calf injury, it was a mystery to who would be in the starting lineup. Jervay Green subbed in for Burke, and Kevin Cross actually took over starting center duties for Yvan Ouedraogo, marking his first career start.

Before the game Fred Hoiberg said Thor would cover Jalen Smith, and first possession of the game, missed layup from Smith. However by the U4 Media Timeout Smith already had nine points, and ten rebounds. Other than Smith, no one else really hurt the Huskers that much in the first half.

Nebraska never took advantage of Maryland’s woes early on, shooting 3-20 from three and committing nine turnovers. Thor did everything he could to keep the game close in the first half, putting up ten points and five rebounds. His help and some bench production from Matej Kavas and Ouedraogo kept the deficit to only 13 points at halftime, trailing 38-25.

So article after article during the Huskers losing streak I would write at this point “Nebraska needs to stop their slow second half starts.” Clearly the team have read my articles and listened to my message. Nebraska began the half on a 15-9 run to cut the deficit to seven points, and kept going after that.

With continued help from Thor and Kavas, as well as Cheatham, Nebraska crawled all the way to a two point deficit at the U8 Media Timeout. This game reminded of the Rutgers comeback, good defense turning into efficient offense, but all with a limited team. During the Rutgers game, Cross, Green, and Charlie Easley helped contribute, this game? Kavas and Ouedraogo.

Unlike the Rutgers game, Nebraska could never maintain consistent play. After cutting the lead two, they let up a 12-4 run heading into the U4 Media Timeout, trailing by ten at this point. However this second half Nebraska just never gave up, thanks to an entire team effort, but mainly Haanif Cheatham. After coming into this game “questionable”, Cheatham put the team on his back.

With a minute and a half to go the Huskers trailed by five, and it looked as if Maryland should easily pull it away. This team never gave up. Cross nailed a three with 40 seconds left and trimmed the lead to four, after being cold all night. A four point lead with 40 seconds left, Maryland should have easily closed the game, but they couldn’t convert free throws.

10 seconds to go, Cowan at the free throw line, misses short, Cam Mack drives with a whole head of steam to the hoop, and out of nowhere Jalen Smith rises up and swats it away. The ball goes loose and Nebraska fouls Maryland with .7 seconds left. It was too late.

Maryland 72, Nebraska 70.

What a game. Hoiberg’s game management is unmatched, and this team’s heart is there, maintaining consistent play just hasn’t been reached yet for this team. Too many times has this team gone through scoring droughts that make it so hard for them to establish a lead. I will always love this team though. Cheatham scored 20, Thor 15, and Mack had 8 assists. Hoiberg has said this team is so close, and they are, its their first year. In the meantime, we await Wisconsin at home on Saturday, a game this team can win. We just have to be patient.